Friday, November 18, 2016

Mini Update on Bakelite Handle Engagement

I have been experimenting with different razor head-handle combinations. I've been using my fat, heavy Maggard-brand handle on my Merkur 33C Classic razor head for example, which is a combination that seems to suit me rather well.

Maggard MR3B razor, with its fat, heavy handle, which I like in
combination with my Merkur 33C razor head.
It is also my plan to go the other direction, which is putting my lightest handle on the Merkur 33C razor head; and that handle is the all-plastic handle from the Merkur "Bakelite" razor.

The point of today's article, however, is additional insight into the nature of the "Bakelite" razor -- specifically the way that it fastens together. In my previous article, I described how the "Bakelite" razor seems to screw together less positively; that is, as I tighten the handle onto the razor head, from the point where the handle touches the compressed (with my fingers) razor head to the point that the handle is securely snug against the razor head, there seems to be a bit more turning required that with my metal razors.

This begs the question: why? Is it the spring force of the extra blade curvature of the "Bakelite" razor head? Is it the extra plastic "give" of the center post in the razor top cap? Is it the extra plastic "give" of the threads in the "Bakelite" handle? Some combination?

Well, for starters, I don't believe that the separation force of the extra curvature of the blade has anything to do with the issue. I say this because as I tighten the inverted plastic razor together on my bathroom counter top, I apply more than sufficient force with my free hand to completely cancel the separation force of the blade-as-spring, and fully compress the top-cap-blade-baseplate sandwich.

Here's what I know from screwing metal handles onto the "Bakelite" razor head, and from screwing the "Bakelite" handle onto metal razor heads:  it's subtle but I think that, not surprisingly, both the plastic handle threading and the center post mounting in the plastic head each have the slightest additional "give" when tightening up the razor -- not a lot; just a bit. When both are mated together, however, the combination becomes more obvious. It's still not a lot, but it is discernible.

So what does this mean?

I guess it means that one would expect the life of the "Bakelite" razor to be, as I surmised in my previous article, a shorter life than a metal razor, when all other things are equal. Not a shocking conclusion, I guess, but it means that over time the continual micro flexing of the plastic parts will lead to failure. How quickly this happens depends on both frequency of use, how the razor is stored (tight, with blade or not), and how tightly the user actually tightens up the razor prior to use.

Nothing is forever, of course -- and that's certainly true of the "Bakelite" razor. So if you have one or plan to get one, then enjoy it while it's working, with the knowledge that it may be a bit more temporary than your other razors.

Happy shaving!


  1. I can see, after 2 weeks of use that I fiddle a little to get the bakelite handle to screw onto the brass center post, so I agree with your findings. Can I suggest that you send your three 'Bakelite' posts to Merkur? A brass threaded tube in the handle might solve the problem.

    1. Perhaps you are correct in thinking that brass threads in the handle will help. On the other hand, that doesn't address the question of the center post embedded within the top cap, which seems to be another point of potential failure. My guess is that the engineers at Dovo-Solingen (Merkur) are aware of the issues with a plastic razor and may have calculated fairly equivalent durability in the handle threads and the center-post-to-top-cap junction.
      I believe that I have noted in vintage Bakelite handles a threaded-brass insert, which makes sense when mating to an all-metal razor head.